What Does Failing Forward Mean?

Recently at a social event a person quizzically stated to me, “I bet you are glad to see the school  year almost over.”

I hesitated and then responded, “I feel like there is so much I still want to do that I thought I would have already accomplished. So I guess I am a little sad. I can’t believe the end of my first year as an assistant principal is already here. Now I have a lot of goals for next year!”

Aside from the fact that I love being at school and with students and teachers and never long for the end of a year or saying goodbye to students. I also see the deadline coming for meeting goals I have set for myself, for my campus, for my teachers and for my students. If I was within reach of the goals I set… the end of the school year would be a punctuation of celebration. However, for me it is not quite that.

learning

Couros, George. “What Success (and Learning) Really Looks Like.” The Principal of Change. N.p., 16 Jan. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.

This year hasn’t been so much about a gentle forward move on a line of progression toward growth, but an awkward series of stops and starts due to the learning curve that comes with being in a new position. I will say every experience I have learned something. I have grown, maybe not in the direction of the goals I have set, but still I have grown… by leaps and bounds, on my own and with the support of others.

A conversation that happened around the first of March with a mentor has stuck with me. I was in the midst of a large task that required decisions where there wasn’t a clear right or wrong/ yes or no. I had to determine what I thought was best. I asked for my mentor’s input.

My mentor replied,”You are going to have to make this decision for yourself.”

I pleaded, “I want your opinion.”

“You are going to make this decision. And if you fail, fail forward.”

At the time I was frustrated by this response. I wanted to have assurance that the decision I was making was right. I did not want failure to be a remote possibility.

There have been many decisions before that, and many since that conversation. Not every situation presented the opportunity to fail forward, but each one has helped me grow, strengthened me, and sharpened my focus as a leader.

As I reflect back at the year, I note where I have fallen short in reaching the goals I have set for myself. I choose to see the failure in reaching the goals I had set for myself as an opportunity to fail forward. Failing forward is what drives the goals for the upcoming year. It is in the failing forward I grab for what is most important and utilize that to sharpen my focus, be purposeful in my plan and lead with even more intention.fail forward quote

I do not long for the year to come to an end.  At the same time, I am eagerly looking forward to the next year, knowing I will fail again, but failing forward with grace, strength and the support of those around me.

I am no longer under the illusion that growth happens on a gentle forward moving line of progression. Rather, growth is a beautiful yet awful mix of stops, starts, crawls, runs, trips and stumbles that all move us forward. I look forward to failing forward.

How do you define failing forward? How does failing forward define your growth and goals?

A Quarterly Review: Progress, Process and Persistence

It has been 3 months since I posted my New Year’s post #beUncommon.

We all set goals, but what makes those goals achievable is revisiting them and assessing if we are making progress to meet them, what is the process we are utilizing to work toward those goals and what level of commitment… in many cases persistence are we employing to accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves.

The following were the “Resolutions” or goals I have set for myself for 2015 related to the #beUncommon post.

2015 Resolutions I have not blogged as much as I would have lilked with my family blog… but I am very content with the amount of content I have written for my professional blog.

Our family has continued regular attendance with the church we are members… we only miss when we are sick or are out of town. Our kids make sure of it. This habit has been embraced by our children as much as it has been a desire for my family to attend regularly.

I am well on my way to achieving my #500in2015. As of this post I have logged 148 miles.  I have run one half marathon and am making plans running the other 2 this fall.

The weight loss is probably my greatest challenge. I am happy to report that my exercise, healthy food choices and water intake has become a lifestyle change. I am confident that with patience the weight loss will follow.

I do continue to struggle with the friend time in the purposefully planned family and friend time. I have great ideas but my follow through is a bit lacking. I am not sure if it is my schedule or my friends’ schedules, but I know this has continued to be a resolution that is not improving. I will say family time has improved. So I am going to celebrate what I have made progress on… and persist a bit more to make time for friends.

Finally, the seeking God, sharing his love and trusting his plan for me and my family. I will be honest, this comes in waves. However, one thing I know is the gift I have been given to work with the youth program with my church. Every Wednesday I get to know, share and love on the 6th grade girls that come to life-group. I have watched these girls grow in faith, love for one another, and a passion to pray for others. It is such a privilege to see first hand these girls learn, share and create a little community of support. They have taught me so much about patiently waiting for the right timing and simplistic joy. I was supposed to facilitate spiritual learning as they sought answers, but in the process they taught me. Most of all, they have my heart.

As I look back at the first quarter of 2015, I am blessed. I have progressed, it is still a process, and yes, I will persist.

As you reflect over the first quarter of 2015… how are you progressing, processing and persisting through your goals?

ROLE Reversal Observed

ROLE book

A few months ago I was introduced to the ROLE approach via a discussion with 7th Grade English/Language Arts Teacher, Sara Hutson.  She had been talking with friend and fellow colleague, Kat Julian, an 8th Grade English/Language Arts Teacher at Coppell Middle School East, from Coppell I.S.D..

After Sara shared her contagious curiosity about this instructional philosophy and approach, I wanted to learn more and turned to my Twitter PLN.  Very few were familiar or had implemented the approach, but many were intrigued.  I turned my search to the internet.  I found some information and learned that ROLE (Results Only Learning Environment) derives its approach from Daniel Pink’s Drive philosophy on motivation which inspired the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) approach in the work place (I curated resources in Pinterest and ScoopIt).  In both ROLE and ROWE the premise, from what I learned so far, is based on the following:

1) the individual (not the boss/teacher) setting goals

2) working toward those goals with set checkpoints or deadlines

3) continuous feedback and purposeful reflection guided by the teacher/boss connected to the checkpoints/deadlines

4) self assessment of goals achieved/mastery of task(s)

I was intrigued and as curious as Sara was at this point.  Together we made plans to go and see ROLE in action.

Upon arrival to Coppell Middle School East, it looked much like any other Middle School, active, social and bursting with teenage energy.  We were escorted to Kat Julian’s classroom.  She had introduced us to the idea and was now sharing how it played out in the classroom.  As we walked in students were working on MacBooks and iPads bringing a year long PBL into its final stages for presentation the last week in May.  Some student groups were in the hallways recording, others were working together on one product, while others were in sitting in groups but working on individual components of their group PBL.  No one was off task, no one was asking the teacher what they should do next.  They all were self-driven, self-directed and self-reflective.  How was this self-regulated learning just happening?

We soon found out.  The vertical team of English Language Arts Teachers at Coppell Middle School East, had worked hard, struggled, re-structured, and ultimately succeeded to get to this point.

The team: Kat Julian, 8th grade; Megan Boyd, 7th; Laura Melson, 6th grade; and their principal, Laura Springer.

First, the entire team had the following: same planning time, support of their principal and school board, and one school day per six weeks to meet, collaborate, brainstorm, vertically align and problem solve.  Secondly, the team was also directly trained by the author of ROLE Reversal, Mark Barnes who has continued to support them throughout this whole process.

Most importantly, they were intentional and purposeful in how they presented the ROLE approach to both students and parents.

Parents were supplied a “Standards Card” that lists all the standards students are expected to work toward mastery throughout the year.  Students are expected to self-report on their learning, and “negotiate” their level of mastery and provide evidence that they are progressing toward the learning goals for the year every 6 weeks via a one to one grade conference with their teachers.  Teachers create an open Google Doc Spreadsheet that shows the standards addressed, feedback and whether or not mastery was met.

Parents have access to the Google Doc at all times.  They have several tasks throughout the year and goals, but there is one year long PBL all students are expected to complete.  The PBL focused on individual learning first, then group terms are set (a rubric is always present to establish terms… teacher written early in the year, then later student written), and finally collaboration of research occurs with students in their groups that leads them to a final PBL product.  In all cases the teacher is a facilitator and provides feedback at certain deadlines.  The teacher is not the supplier of information.

Feedback from the teacher follows the process of 1)Summarizing what learning is evident 2)Explain what has met mastery 3)Re-direct what may not have met mastery and 4)Provide new deadline date to Re-submit work.

Most would ask next… does it work?  Answer: A resounding yes!  While it isn’t just about a state test, this approach seems to have not only addressed the whole learner developing a passion driven learner, but resulted in unprecedented results on the state test.  In the 8th grade ROLE classes 100% of students passed with 80% scoring at the advanced level. Additionally, of these students 62% improved or showed growth from the previous year. Even more than that was to observe the self-directed, self-regulated, self-motivated passionate learning driven by the student at a depth that I knew was possible but had not seen fully realized with such a large amount of students.

Furthermore, in the 7th grade Mrs. Boyd saw tremendous improvement in her students’ with their campus 25 book campaign.  As we observed in this classroom, students were evaluating their year long reading logs.  Students had consistently read, recorded their reading, written a recommendation posted to the class blog and reflected on their reading.  Many moved from only reading 2 or 3 books the previous year to reading 25-30 books this year.  When asked why were they more successful, students remarked that it was because they had consistently evaluated themselves in their feedback conferences with their teachers and had their fellow classmates blog recommendations that helped them find books of interest.  The day we were observing students were creating their celebration picture.  We were able to grab a few to share.  I did not have these students myself, but I was overcome with emotion as I saw the excitement of students as they proudly shared their achievement.  Additionally, without provocation they shared the understanding they had gained about the correlation between abundant reading and their writing. (Insert the cheering and applause of every English Language Arts Teacher HERE!)

ROLE reading goal 2 ROLE reading goal

To see this all in action and working successfully was amazing and fantastic.  I am anxious to see this happen in my district.  I know it is possible.  We already have so many pieces that lend themselves to this approach. We utilize the workshop model, PBLs, document based questioning, and standards based bulletin boards to move emphasis from a grade focus to mastery of skills. Watching students be self-regulating, self-motivated and self-directed with intense passion and commitment I am eager to see how it could be implemented.

I am eager to read the book ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes and learn with others via my PLN and fellow district colleagues about this student focused approach to learning.

What are your thoughts on ROLE?  Do you have experience with this approach?  Please share your thoughts, ideas and comments.

When we “Be Brave”…

ferroni quote with canvaWe all have celebrated the moments when we inspire our students.  In those same moments we have become inspired as well.  Often the inspiration takes us on a journey through the reflective epiphany of a fear to take a risk with something or a realization that we have purposefully avoided a challenge.  However, in the face of this inspiration, we know we must seize the moment, push forward and “Be Brave.”

As an instructional technology specialist I am constantly looking for this dynamic between student and teacher inspiration that leads to risk taking and being brave.  After seeing this in many of the teachers and students I work with, I chose to capture through video some of the benefits of heeding the “inspiration boomerang” in hope that more “inspired bravery” would occur.  This video is just a small picture of the teachers and students in my district that daily inspire one another.

One of the teachers, Mr. Suhr, was recently featured on our district Instructional Technology blog, “Making IT Click.”

As Teacher Appreciation Week ends and we begin to bring our instructional year to a close, I hope 2013-14 provided many moments inspired bravery.  As we reflect, think forward, and set goals for 2014-15, how do you plan to continue to “Be Brave?”

The “E” in ePortfolio- A Reflection

This past fall our Superintendent shared with us her four main initiatives.  One of them to have every student K-12 create a living portfolio that showcases student learning.  The platform to deliver this… Google Sites.

What happened next was a concerted effort by our instructional team to help train teachers, support students and intentional time spent with students to get started.

When the educational world is in an uproar over testing and common core, ePortfolios show what can happen when effective instructional practices are in place and high expectations, married with freedom of choice, are communicated with students.  ePortfolios is authentic learning at its best.

But authentic learning aside, what happened with students is the story worth telling.

Students embraced the ePortfolios.  Eager to have choice in design and input on what would be included changed how students and teachers viewed learning.  It suddenly became about what is best about the student and not a compliance about products that “must” be included.

Follow the link below to our District IT blog to see how one student,  with teacher’s guidance, fully embraced the idea of ePortfolios and ran with it..

(Northwest ISD Instructional Technology Blog: “Making IT Click”)

 

Delivering a Message… the Power of Video

I have been participating in the #blogamonth challenge since January 1, 2014.  I needed a “push” to keep me blogging, or so I thought.  Then I realized, through the #blogamonth website I had more material to work from than I ever thought “worthy.” Which brings me to my first “video” that I share with teachers, administrators, parents, students and, frankly, anyone.

Obvious to You, Amazing to Others by Derek Sivers 1

I most often use this video when helping students brainstorm ideas for Genius Hour, but what I am finding that this video is powerful at encouraging teachers and administrators to take risks and collaborate more transparently, move from lurker to participant on Social Media when utilized for professional development.  I believe it may even be a catalyst for “closet bloggers” who have blog posts and even private blog sites but never make them public.

The second video was shared with me two years ago by my very progressive and forward thinking principal Michael Griffin (now Executive Director of Elementary Education in my district).  This completely changed the way teachers on my campus and my grade level team approached instruction.  Interesting enough, this same video was shared with my newly formed Instructional Technology Team at the inception of the 2013-14 year to help guide our focus as we moved forward to re-define instructional technology, first for our district, and secondly globally.

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action 2

Finally, I would not be who I say I am if I did not include this final video.  Often the best videos are the ones that our own students create.  The video I am sharing is a math tutorial video created by a student on one of the campuses I support.  The crafting of the video, the variety of technology utilized and the level of engagement it demands of it’s audience makes it exceptional conceptually and technologically.  I use this as a way to share with teachers what students can do when they are given the freedom of choice and the content is evaluated rather than tool focused.

“Expert Math Project” by a 7th Grade Math Student

As a reflection, videos I select serve the purpose of learning to inspire, question and challenge.  If a video does not create a sense of urgency to be better, do better and create a passion for learning then it shouldn’t be shown; but in turn creates an opportunity for new, more dynamic videos to be created by us or, even more likely, our students.

How are you using the Power of Video to deliver your message, or even more, how are your students taking the learning goals presented to them to showcase their learning in a way so powerful others can learn as well?

1 “Obvious to you. Amazing to others. – by Derek Sivers – YouTube.” 2011. 2 Mar. 2014 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcmI5SSQLmE>

2 “Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action | Video on TED.com.” 2010. 3 Mar. 2014 <http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html>

How to Eat an Elephant…

As we begin fresh with a new year, I know many of us have recharged, reflected and refocused.  We have personal and professional goals we have set for ourselves to better ourselves, better our world and better relationships.

When my students are faced with a new and sometimes daunting task I always refer to the riddle: “How do you eat an elephant?” they always smile (some giggle) and reply, “One bite at a time.”

Before we go head long into this year fire in our belly to achieve it all, a few words of encouragement and advice that may help you take that elephant and make it bite sized.

First, if you have set a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) or goals… good for you!  However, with big goals there can be a lot of small accomplishments along the way.  Be sure to break it down into smaller goals and celebrate achieving those goals in between.

Second, as a connected educator I have sometimes become overwhelmed with the amount of things to learn.  Instead of trying to “swallow the elephant whole” pick one thing at a time; “eat the elephant one bite at a time.”  Challenge yourself to learn at least one new thing or take one new action with instruction per social media chat, training or PLC meeting. When teachers attend my trainings I encourage them to take one thing from my professional development courses and use it immediately; then come back and revisit the other actions, resources and tools once they are ready. I have made it a practice after participating in a Twitter PLN chat, attended a training or collaborated during a PLC to jot a quick goal statement… i.e. “I will use One Note as a way to organize information and documents in regard to how I document/track the IT support I provide to my campuses beginning 2014.”

Third, reflect on your progress, challenges and new learning that has occurred in this journey of bettering yourself and the world.  It is in this reflection period that some of the greatest learning occurs for myself and my students.  This step sometimes creates more profound learning than the learning that led up to the reflection.

Finally, share with others both your goals and the results of your journey to achieve these goals.  Everyone needs accountability and encouragement.  Additionally, your insight, learning and knowledge is as unique and valued as you are.  You matter and the message your journey toward your goals provides you matter too.

I have a few Twitter PLNs that are helping me with a few of my goals. One is #blogamonth to keep me on track to share with others my learning along the way.  The second is #500in2014 which has helped me to keep running… this year running at least 500 miles.  Setting goals is admirable, sharing with others is both heroic and a bit daunting, but knowing you have the support of a virtual or face to face community is priceless.

What are your goals for 2014? It’s not about eating and elephant whole, but one bite at a time.  Feel free to share your goals or comment.